By Noriko Kudo, U.S. Army Garrison Japan Public AffairsSeptember 6, 2019
CAMP ZAMA, Japan (Sept. 6, 2019) -- For Col. Thomas Matelski, the issue of suicide in the military hits particularly close.
During the Resilient Living Day training event held Sept. 3 at the Camp Zama Community Club here, Matelski, the commander of U.S. Army Garrison Japan, shared a personal story of losing a Soldier to suicide. Matelski also mentioned he was the last person to see the Soldier alive.
Matelski said the memory of the Soldier continues to stay with him every day of his life.
"Losing one life [to suicide] is too many," Matelski said at the event, being held as part of Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. "We need to take the time, more than just today, to be able to better take care of each other."
Events like the Resilient Living Day training are crucially important to the Army because they allow him and his fellow Soldiers to "not only help ourselves, but also help us look out for those on our left and right," Matelski said.
Matelski said he wanted attendees at the training to recognize that asking for help when one is feeling suicidal or is having suicidal ideations is not a sign of weakness, but rather "a true sign of strength."
"Small steps can save a life," said Matelski.
The morning training portion included presentations on topics such as substance abuse prevention, grief and stress management, and "Performance Triad," an Army campaign that promotes healthy lifestyle choices that combine the right amounts of sleep, activity and nutrition to reach optimal performance.
Following that was the Resilient Living Day fair, in which attendees could visit various organizations' booths and speak with representatives and receive information on pertinent resources available at Camp Zama.
Christine Coller, the suicide prevention manager and preventing coordinator for Camp Zama's Army Substance Abuse Program, said the ASAP team hosted the event "to focus on everything that [could] break down a person's life" while also meeting the intent of Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.
Coller said that although the ASAP program can never reach 100 percent of the community, having Soldiers and civilians attend is beneficial because they can then take the information and resources they receive and share them with friends, family members and co-workers when necessary.
Tisha Miller, counselor for the Adolescent Support and Counseling Services program, or ASACS, at Zama Middle High School, was a first-time attendee at the training. Miller said she was touched by how openly Matelski spoke about the importance of Soldiers getting help and taking care of each other, and applauded the commander for showing "how important it is to the garrison to help the community."
Sgt. 1st Class Willie Williams, assigned to U.S. Army Japan and I Corps (Forward), said he appreciated the event because he was able to get the latest information and resources from Army Community Service and the installation emergency manager.
Learning about suicide prevention is important, Williams said, and he encouraged Soldiers and family members to attend events like this regularly, because they help reinforce the seriousness of the issue.